Submitted press release
In early 2011, The California Legislature adopted legislation that required the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (BOF) to develop and implement a program to assess a fire prevention fee on homeowners within State Responsibility Areas (SRA). In November 2011, the BOF voted to adopt regulations to implement the fee mandated by the Legislature. The annual fee of $150 for the first structure, $25 for each additional structure, will go to help fund prevention activities on SRA lands. A $35 credit will be given to those who live on SRA lands but pay for fire protection from a second agency, such as the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District (RSFFPD). There have been and are ongoing attempts to overturn it; however, the fee is currently scheduled to start being assessed beginning in August.
The SRA bill, which will be separate from residents’ property tax bill, will be invoiced by the California Board of Equalization to be used for fire prevention services and programs provided by the state. According to Cal Fire’s website, this may include “brush clearance, defensible space inspections, fire breaks and public education programs. A portion of the fee may also be used to fund the extraordinary efforts taken by CAL FIRE to prevent the expansion of wildland fires during emergency situations.”
Most of the communities covered by the RSFFPD, including The Covenant, Fairbanks Ranch, Cielo, The Crosby, The Lakes, and The Bridges, are on SRA lands, while most of 4S Ranch is not on SRA lands. The BOF has a tool on its website to help residents determine whether or not their home is on SRA lands. The tool can found at www.bof.fire.ca.gov/sra_viewer.
The decision to assess the SRA fee was not an immediate one. In 2004, SB 1049, was enacted and imposed an annual fee, to be collected on the county level to fund fire prevention activities, on all parcels of land located within SRAs. However, before any money was collected, the fee was repealed by SB 1112. The fee was revisited during the 2007-2008 budget process at the suggestion of the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) as a means of recovering costs for services provided to private beneficiaries and the BOF voted in favor of the fee during their November 2011 meeting.
CAL FIRE has developed a web site with information about the SRA fee. The site includes a number of helpful links, as well as the phone number to the SRA Fee Implementation Center. The web site can be accessed at www.firepreventionfee.org.